“A gutsy book” – Toronto Star
“Joining Olivia Chow on her journey is certainly a trip worth taking. From Immigrant to Member of Parliament, from self-discovery to community activism, from family conflict to deep love, the episodes of her life will keep you turning the pages.” – David Crombie
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2014 MUNICIPAL PLATFORM
Thank you to everyone who joined together this evening to celebrate the legacy of Jack. For those of you who could not attend the Remembering Our Friend Jack memorial, please find a copy of my heart-felt tribute below. #MyFriendJack
Celebrating a life dedicated to making our Canada more generous: Olivia’s speech in memory of Jack Layton Aug 22, 2016
What a joy to see you all here. And we all know that Jack would have loved this. He loved the last days of summer, hanging out in the park, on the island, on a picnic with friends. Enjoying music and each other’s company.
A lots changed these last five years eh?
I have 2 more grand daughters, Solace and Phoebe, in addition to Beatrice.
We no longer have Stephen Harper as our Prime Minister.
I have returned to a profession Jack once loved – teaching at Ryerson University, a place where he spent many years as a professor.
Some things, however, have not changed. On the environmental front, 2016 is the hottest year ever measured. Each of the past 14 months has beaten the global monthly temperature record. So the climate is already in crisis.
And we still have massive number of people struggling to find affordable housing. The homelessness situation is as serious as ever.
The gap between the rich and the poor is even more devastating, and continues to grow.
Yet, we do find hope. We must find hope.
In the months following Jack’s death, life was difficult. Half of my face was paralyzed, caused by shingles. I couldn’t shut my left eye. I couldn’t smile, eat or drink from the left side of my mouth. I couldn’t speak clearly.
And one of my lungs was scarred from pneumonia. One night in December 2011, I couldn’t breath and landed in the emergency department of the Ottawa Hospital.
And yet, I found hope.
I found hope in recalling Jack’s generosity of spirit and action.
I remembered when Jack and I met a homeless young woman years ago. And she was coughing, a really deep cough. She was sleeping outside in mid December and she was really sick.
She and her friends were living at a silo by the mouth of the Don River called the Rooster Squad.
We tried hard to persuade her to go indoors to a shelter and to talk with a doctor. To get treatment.
But she was determined to stay with her friends in the freezing cold. We had heard stories of all the physical, verbal and sexual abuses these young people had experienced. They were determined to stay together, because there was a sense of family, of community.
That winter was bitterly cold, and Christmas was only two days away. We wanted to help these young people.
So Jack called an old friend in his home town Hudson Quebec, Philip Habib -- he owned a tent company. And Jack said, “hey, I need some tents right away.” And Philip said, man, it’s Christmas, we can’t just send you tents. And then Jack told him about these kids needing shelter from the bitter cold.
So Philip rounded up some friends and loaded some tents onto a bus, and they arrived the night before Christmas.
We rustled up some decent food to celebrate the holidays with these young people at the Rooster Squad.
It wasn’t much, but a small message that someone cared about them. And that they should never give up hope.
The ability to listen… to see the good in each person… to be empathic… to connect and believe life can be better if we support each other. These were Jack’s values. Values you all share.
A fundamental belief that we can all be generous.
That our government and all the people in our country can be more generous towards each other. These were Jack’s beliefs. Beliefs you all share.
These are the values of social democracy… that Jack believed in so strongly.
Philip was moved by the stories of these young people and Jack’s commitment to them. And Philip found the courage to make a difference.
Through these 5 years, I have heard so many stories of people who were touched by Jack. They pull me aside and tell me their stories.
Like women who spoke of Jack listening to their stories of fleeing violence in their lives. And men telling me how important it was for them that Jack founded the White Ribbon Campaign to end violence against women.
Gay men who were grateful because Jack supported their human rights – he was out there supporting them and protesting against police brutality and raids on bathhouses, rights, and implementing the first AIDS defense plan in Canada.
I’ve heard so many moving stories.
From Tamils who saw Jack fearlessly stand with them in front of Parliament when no other leaders would.
Indigeous people like Shawn, whose home and reserve Jack visited – where he listened to the stories and then told the Prime Minister that he must apologize for the residential schools.
Quebec New Democrats, like Nick, who said he found a home in the NDP because Jack demonstrated that the essence of Quebecois social democratic values are the values that New Democrats share.
Lesbian couples, like Kiloran and Elizabeth, who finally got married after being together in love for more than 30 years, because it is finally legal. Something Jack worked for, for decades, never giving up hope.
And from so many others… because Jack heard our stories and gathered us together to make change happen.
Jack was eternally hopeful that things would get better.
It is this hopeful and generous spirit that moved a new generation of young activists to help me organize this memorial. People like Nadine who pulled a team together to make tonight possible.
We are here together. And I am very thankful.
This is my first year in three decades not in politics, or campaigning. And my first summer in over 40 years where I haven’t been working full time. So I’ve been able to take some vacation. A few weeks ago I was on an Arctic river – the Firth, the oldest river in this country.
There is something about being in the north and contemplating the universe – that makes you totally, perfectly alone.
The barren land, the majestic canyons, the mighty river, the isolation all served to remind me of how we are born alone and shall return to dust when we depart.
There is “NO dress rehearsal, this is our life.”
In the grand scheme of things, we are small and insignificant. But collectively, our spirit is strong.
Many here have experienced the loss of a loved one. As we visit Necropolis, remember them. Helen Breslauer wrote me a few days ago, about her late husband, Dr. Bob Frankford. She said his ashes are sprinkled in the rose garden in the Necropolis. Bob Frankford was a former MPP in the NDP government, who later attended to the homeless at a men’s shelter. We, especially Helen, will remember Bob’s inspiring commitment to social justice and caring for the most vulnerable.
Let’s all remember our departed love ones for the best in them. Remember their smiles, the joy and the love you experienced together. Remember a generous thing your loved ones have done for you, and for others.
Sometimes when we remember the unique and best qualities of the person we have lost, and the beautiful moments we shared -- sometimes, the sadness and sorrow and sense of loss can be overwhelming. Let it transform you.
Let their generosity of spirit be part of who you are.
When we do so, we are strong.
We understand and appreciate we are not alone. As we celebrate the generosity of spirit from those who have departed by joining our scarves together, we are strong.
As we pass Jack’s gravesite, let us dedicate ourselves to each other, and to improving the world.
As we remember the best qualities of those who passed away, we are hopeful.
As we work for change and make a commitment to listen and empower those who are most vulnerable, we are loving.
And as we place a stone at Jack’s grave as a commitment to being generous and staying true to our values, we are optimistic. And it is so much better than despair.
That’s what Jack knew. And he was right.
Thank you all for being here. ... See MoreSee Less